Positive body image isn’t just about the surface level, external body. It’s about knowing, understanding, and being proud of the whole body that you have and what it does for you. Easier said than done, at times, for those of us who experience periods! It can come with pain, insecurity, cost, and shame. It’s easy to view periods as a negative thing, but it is important for women and men to become more comfortable with periods. It’s time we start to explore a stronger positive body image through pro-period conversations!
What difference does it make? Well, here are five important ways our lives could change by being pro-period:
1. It stops being a burden and starts to become a celebration. There is pain involved, and extra effort in daily routines to maintain self-care when you have a period. Not every moment is easy and many women struggle with moderate to severe complications connected to their cycle. Still, periods don’t have to be synonymous with burden. In fact, one could argue that having a period is something to be celebrated. Yes, you read that right. Hear me out. As I mentioned above, body image isn’t just about how we look. It’s about celebrating the way your body works for you. Having a period lets women know they are healthy and that their bodies are doing what they should be each and every month. This information is a critical part of short and long-term health! Viewing periods as a burden may cloud our ability to notice the things that could indicate a need to follow-up or get more information.
2. Our language will become more confident. Aunt Flo, “That time of the month”, my worst nightmare. These are just a few of many ways women might refer to their monthly cycle. But why call it all of these indirect names, when we could just call it what it is? Menstrual cycle. Cycle. Period. Having nicknames for periods makes it less awkward to talk about (maybe), but it creates a self-made barrier from having authentic conversation. Having a menstrual cycle is something many women experience for several days a month and for many years of their lives. We can’t move forward if we aren’t willing to call it what it is. Period. [Pun intended.]
3. We can have better access to resources. There are experts on menstrual cycles and women’s health all over the world who can be consulted as questions arise. Even still, there are experts on periods who are often forgotten – women themselves. As people become more confident and comfortable talking about periods, a shared platform of understanding and experience will continue to be created. Ingrid Nilsen, a content creator on YouTube, has become one of many important voices in normalizing conversation about periods. She has created videos, viewed by hundreds of thousands of people, that work to create a culture of understanding and comfort in discussing periods and women’s health. This has allowed her audience to also learn new information they may never have considered. In her recent “Your Vagina Matters” video, Ingrid speaks with founders and members of Conscious Period, an organization working to make feminine hygiene products available to women who are experiencing homelessness and may not be able to afford these essential products themselves. It was eye-opening to me to become more aware of this need, and I anticipate it was new information for many watching her video. The ability to share information and create awareness allows for better and stronger resources to be developed for women.
4. State legislators would be challenged to stop applying luxury taxes to essential feminine hygiene items. Did you know that 40 of the 50 states in the U.S. charge a “luxury tax” on feminine hygiene products including sanitary napkins and tampons? This is a problem. Fusion author, Taryn Hillin, says it best in her article – “Yet as every woman who has ever gotten her period knows, feminine hygiene products are not a choice; they’re a required part of being a woman.” To be charged an additional cost for something that is biological and part of women’s everyday experiences, means we are experiencing a form of discrimination. Women and men need to band together to address this issue of unjust costs applied to an everyday, essential item. But this step of coming together must be preluded by our own comfort with having these conversations and being open about the concern.
5. A culture of advocacy is created. Difficult conversations about menstrual cycles are prominent in the U.S., but creating a shared, pro-period culture is a larger, global issue. There are many religions across the world, for example, that enforce a culture of shame toward women during their periods. Depending on the religion practiced, women can be told their periods make them unclean and unholy. Women might be banned from their places of faith, their schools, and even their homes. They may be forbidden from cooking, touching other people, or having sex with their partners. Women could be viewed as sick, unclean, and untouchable by others. When exploring these types of practices, it is imperative that a strong level of perspective is maintained. Not all followers of a faith will practice shaming in the ways listed above, and certainly, many areas of the world are growing to understand this part of a woman’s experience more and more. Some is not enough, however, when women are being treated as less than human for an essential and important part of their lives. Willingness to have open conversations allows for this to become a larger movement, one based in confidence and education.
A pro-period culture isn’t going to happen overnight. It will take time, energy, and a willingness to step outside of our comfort zones to engage in difficult, but meaningful conversation.
What are your thoughts on a pro-period culture? How might your life change by taking a pro-period stance?
By: Sarah Strohmenger